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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, April 4, 2010

Recruiting transfers has risks, rewards

By Ferd Lewis

A basketball coach with an urgency to win, some scholarships open and potential transfers from major programs available.

Sound familiar?

It should.

As new University of Hawai'i men's basketball coach Gib Arnold works the recruiting trail, transfers from major programs can be a boon for one looking to accelerate a turnaround.

Or, as the Rainbow Warriors learned the hard way this season, they can backfire badly, too.

That's a powerful lesson in due diligence to be mindful of as the 'Bows go about stocking their roster for the next season and beyond.

It was about this time last year that Providence College transfer Dwain Williams was heralded as a "prized recruit" for the 'Bows, a shooting guard who was going to give them the outside shot they had lacked and help propel UH to a winning season.

For most of his time on the court at UH, Williams was as advertised. He averaged 14 points a game, second highest on the team. In a remarkable three-game stretch, he put up 20 points against Nevada-Las Vegas, 36 on Saint Mary's and 28 on Northwestern State to make the Diamond Head Classic all-tournament team.

But, in a season marred by suspensions for violations of team rules and academics, Williams played only three games thereafter, finishing on indefinite suspension and UH's offense was never the same. When Williams played, UH was 7-7. Without him, it was 3-13.

Now it is Arnold's task to fill at least three more scholarships and possibly as many as six overall. A proven performer or two via transfer could certainly help. And much sooner than most high school recruits, even if they must sit a season under NCAA rules.

Speculation has been that Arnold has an eye on Leonard Washington, a 6-foot-7, 230-pound forward who played two years at USC, when Arnold was an assistant, and averaged 6.2 points and 4.4 rebounds this season. "As far as (Washington) or any other recruit, per NCAA rules, I will not be able to comment on them," Arnold wrote in an e-mail.

A USC spokesman said the school has "not made any announcements on Leonard Washington as of yet."

Then there was Texas-El Paso's hiring of former USC head coach Tim Floyd last week, which could complicate things.

The bigger question, however, is the matter of Washington's checkered stay at USC. He was academically ineligible at the start of this season and was dismissed at the end. He was ejected from a game as a freshman for elbowing an opponent below the waist.

June Jones had a track record of giving second-chance opportunities to football players who, for the most part, made them pay off.

When it comes to basketball, though, it is insightful to remember that one reason that Arnold has the UH job now is that a promising transfer backfired on his predecessor.